About three weeks before the Terrapins gymnastics team’s meet Friday at New Hampshire, sophomore Abbie Epperson faltered against Iowa.

She came down on vault with her legs locked, jamming her knees and ankles and causing her to fall. Later in that competition, she fell on balance beam.

Her struggles continued over the next few meets, especially on beam. Then, on Feb. 22 against Penn State, she didn’t compete on the event. Instead she performed an exhibition routine.

She was scheduled to do another Friday against New Hampshire. But after warm-ups, coach Brett Nelligan moved Epperson into the anchor spot to replace a sick gymnast.

“I pretty much just nodded my head,” Epperson said. “It wasn’t a huge surprise, but I did get a little shockwave of nerves.”

Epperson, capping an emotional beam rotation in which the Terps saw their lead slip away, made her unexpected return to the lineup a triumphant one, as she notched a career-high 9.85.

A win was out of reach by the time Epperson did the final routine of the night — the Terps lost 195.235 – 195.125 — but Nelligan said her performance was part of “a defining moment” for his team.

“No one would’ve blamed them for kind of giving up,” Nelligan said. “but they didn’t.”

In the end, the Terps still fell to the Wildcats. But Epperson’s performance helped the Terps eclipse the 195-point threshold. The team had previously struggled on the road this season.

“She knows what to do in those [high-pressure] situations, because she’s a great competitor,” senior Kathy Tang said. “It’s just natural.”

Epperson said the sudden move into rotation didn’t cause her any nerves. Yet she did feel anxious since there was a delay before her routine. The judges had to discuss a previous routine’s scoring.

“That’s never really what you would want,” Epperson said of waiting. “I just focused on my coach and teammates and they reassured me.”

Epperson said she felt “held back,” last year, as she only competed in two events. She wasn’t used to not competing in all-around. She performed in all four events early this season, but hasn’t returned to vault since her fall against Iowa.

Nelligan said Epperson’s fall weakened her legs for a bit, especially hurting her on beam.

After being removed from beam, Epperson said she worked hard in the gym and had to remind herself that she’s returned to full strength.

“Beam is my easiest event, it should be a breeze,” Epperson said. “In the last two meets I’ve tried not to stress about it, because the [results of the] fall is gone”

That mindset has worked, as the sophomore hit during both her exhibition performance against Penn State and the anchor routine at New Hampshire.

“[Not knowing I would compete] saved me a couple days of anxiousness because I knew I haven’t had the greatest last couple of meets,” Epperson said. “Maybe I would’ve had a different outcome [if I knew earlier], so I’m glad everything played out the way it did.”